M – Do you take time to be alone?
V – Sometimes. I’m a very busy man, with lots of things to do.
M – It’s a good habit to get into.
V – What’s your point?
M – It centers us. Still, we can be alone and get so busy we’re not centered.
V – What do you mean by centering?
M – Feeling close to ourselves… to our mortality… our aging… our physical degradation… the inevitability of our death… which leads to us affirming our lives… acting as if we matter.
V – We have to be busy and constructive with our lives, so we will be remembered.
M – We don’t know if we will be remembered… or how… we have no such control.
V – With all the advances in data storage, of course we will be remembered.
M – Even if we were, we won’t feel a thing from being remembered…
V – That’s different.
M – How so?
Pause as Vladimir reflects.
V – We have to trust that we will. Stalin is remembered. Hitler will never be forgotten. Ever.
M – What have you learned from them?
V – Determination. Once you set your sights on something, you never relent. Only death should keep you from your objective.
M – Did they contribute to humanity’s development?
V – Stalin saved Russia from destruction. I am here because of him.
M – You don’t think Russia would have produced another leader, if it needed to, to defend itself against German aggression?
V – Maybe… or maybe not.
M – Hitler made a horrible mistake invading Russia… but judging from the pool of talent Russia has… Russia would have pushed the Germans back… with or without Stalin. You were fighting for your life.
Just like Ukrainians are.
V – Ukrainians are fighting a proxy war… they are tools of the West… who’s trying to conquer Russia.
M – People who are tools would not fight with the determination Ukrainians are showing.
V – I am trying to save Ukrainians from the depraved West. They have lost their way. God has abandoned them.
M – God is with you?
V – Yes.
M – A modern day Crusade you’ve embarked on…?
V – Yes. For the good of humanity.
M – I think you’re filled with envy… that it has overtaken your judgment… and because you don’t allow for other people to counter your views… you do not revise your opinions.
Has anyone ever told you that you’re an envious man?
V – They wouldn’t dare.
M – That’s the disadvantage of dictatorship. I have no doubt that if Stalin had had courageous people around him objecting to his killing his adversaries… Russia would’ve been better off.
V – Stalin would have killed them, too. It was not a time to be soft.
M – You meant not a time to be fair…
V – I meant what I said.
Why do you say I’m envious?
M – Because nations smaller than you, with fewer natural resources, have developed more than Russia.
V – But they don’t have our nuclear weapons.
M – That is your curse. You hide behind them. And you hide Russia behind them.
The war you started with Ukraine is only making it harder for Russians to join in with the rest of the world. Your people could be making important contributions to the advancement of humanity… instead you’ve set your sights on the destruction of a people fighting for their freedom.
It will be hard for Russians to deal with the guilt of having embraced you in the destruction of Ukraine… like it has been hard for Germans to deal with the guilt over the killing of Jews.
V – You say I’m filled with envy… how do you get rid of it?
M – You don’t. You learn to manage it.
V – How?
M – You say to yourself, ‘I am envious. I covet what others have.’ Then you add, ‘but they have worked for it, or they have abilities I don’t have… or I have not yet developed…’ and you accept their difference… and this acceptance of the other leads you to affirm your own difference… to affirm your own talents… your own gifts. And if you are honest in doing so… then you can welcome others as they are, even if they are better than you at one thing or another… and when you truly accept that such a person or nation functions better than you or your nation… you say to them ‘thank you for striving to be your best… for all of us will benefit from it. In turn, my people and I will strive to do the same.’
Vladimir nods pensively.
M – Notice that I didn’t say anything about killing anyone. Nothing about destroying what others have achieved. Or bombing or maiming them.
The journey to conquer envy is a task for every human being, whether educated or not, rich or poor. It is a journey to self acceptance that will help us in our struggle to contribute our best effort to humanity… while we have the energy and wisdom.
V – For me to not be envious would mean accepting that the way I’ve governed has been a big mistake.
M – Yes.
V – I don’t think I can do that.
M – Then you’re choosing to not start on the journey to managing your envy.
Do you prefer instead to keep ordering the killing of Ukrainians, day after day?
All those lives you’ve ended had contributions to make… all of them… but because you’re choosing to not confront yourself and select another path… those contributions will not be made.
Every life ended in this war is a life not fulfilled… a treasure not discovered…
V – I know it will not end well… this war. Sometimes, I think I’ve created an inferno… with me tossing people into it… every day. Sometimes I even think I hear their cries… their anguish as they burn… and I fear that someone will emerge from that cauldron… come for me… and drag me into it.